Austrian election must be last alarm for EU

Published 17.10.2017 00:50
Updated 17.10.2017 01:03

Alternative for Germany (AfD) federal parliamentary group chair Alexander Gauland said he was pleased with the election results in Austria, announcing that his far-right party, which is the third-largest in the Bundestag, has close ties with the Austrian far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), which made up the second-largest in the Austrian parliament. This is not surprising. A month ago, French far-right leader Marine Le Pen became the first to congratulate the AfD's election success in Germany. It is no secret that far-right groups have a well-functioning network across the EU. Despite that, there is no cooperation against the threat posed by these right-wing groups between the parties responsible for guarding democracy and EU values, unlike the close cooperation between all the far-right and bigoted parties in Europe.

Far-right and racist groups in Europe, which are absolutely against EU values, while knowing no bounds in their hostility to refugees, Muslims and Turks by disregarding human rights with vile populist slogans, have unfortunately won in Austria. The Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), which emerged as the first party in the election, and its new leader, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, expressed their concerns about Austria's shift to the far right following the election, which did not sound convincing since they are also responsible for the results. With his populist statements and slogans, he made the electorate choose between the original and a copy. So, Kurz has unfortunately contributed to the success of the FPÖ. Unless they learn that the fight against the far-right and bigotry cannot be maintained with populist statements and slogans, the uncontrollable rise of the far right will unfortunately continue across Europe.

The results from the Lower Saxony state election, which took place on the same day as the national election and was regarded as a significant development following the German federal elections, has been considered a comfort by some circles, which is not exactly the case. Although the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), which was defeated in the federal elections, became the first party in the state election by increasing its vote share 4.3 percent, the real winner of the state election is the AfD, which increased its vote share to 6.2 percent, the largest vote increase among the parties. Considering that far-right movements are not very popular in Lower Saxony, it is a desperate situation for democracy that the AfD will have seats even in this state parliament, while the vote share of the Greens diminished by 5 percent in the state. No matter whether a grand coalition or a three-party coalition is formed in Lower Saxony, the AfD will be in the opposition when the coalition government is founded within 21 days.

Although the Austrian election results are quite alarming for the future of Europe and the EU, the coalition government that is to be formed is likely to present another reason to ring alarm bells. If ÖVP Chairman Kurz forms a coalition with the far-right FPÖ, the EU might face another Jörg Haider period. Besides, the new "Haiders" are much more experienced and successful than the former one. If they enter the coalition, their ministers will take administrative seats in some EU institutions and have a say in determining the future of the union. Hopefully, Kurz will not give such a chance to the FPÖ and form a coalition with the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ). However, excluding the FPÖ from the government will not prevent their rise in the following election.

Currently, the center parties of EU countries must implement right policies and display a more determined stance in terms of defending EU values. First, they must stop making the mistake of copying the discourses of far-right and bigoted groups.

The steps required to fight Islamophobia and anti-refugee sentiments must be in line with EU values. Restricting the number of refugees will not resolve the refugee challenge, and enacting discriminatory laws against Muslims will not stop the rise of the far right. Contrarily, such acts will just fulfill far-right demands.

The EU needs an applicable migration and asylum policy, a common migration law and common cohesion policies that are valid in all EU countries and that would make it possible to organize society in peace and equal conditions.

This week, the EU Leaders Summit will probably not take any step regarding the issue. However, all EU institutions, particularly the European Parliament, have to take actions instead of just talking. Hopefully, the Austrian election is the last alarming case.

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